John Ward was not always a mad inventor. He followed other interestingly varied career paths before he settled on designing things like the musical frying pan, the yo-yo safety net and the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards.
In my eyes, he has always been a potential lookalike for Mr Pickwick, but, in his erstwhile youth, John was a projectionist for the ABC cinema chain.
“It was a poorly-paid job,” he tells me. But there were occasional incidents which lifted his heart slightly.
The cinema had a doorman/bouncer called Harry ‘Rocky’ Coles.
One day, as John and Rocky were locking up the cinema and about to go on their lunch break, John tells me, “a chap came up and asked in some strange speak if anygoddy lad flound any flause teethtif.”
It transpired that, during the previous night’s screening, this man had taken his false teeth out to “rest them” (his phrase) and placed them on the edge of the next upturned, unused seat.
When he got home, he realised he had left what he called his “eating teeth” at the cinema.
So John and Rocky took the man to the cinema’s lost property box to see if his dentures had been found by the cleaners.
In the box were nine sets of dentures. The man proceeded to try each and every one by sticking them in his mouth and chomping up and down.
“It was like he was having a test drive,” says John. “And, after a moment or two, when he found the right denture, he started to talk like Rex Harrison in My Fair Lady!… Rocky and I stood amazed by the change from gibbering idiot to well-spoken thespian and I held myself back from saying By George! He’s got them!”
As the relieved man left the cinema, he looked at John and Rocky and said: “Thankyou. They’re not the teeth I lost last night, but they do fit rather lovely.”
And then he walked off.
John swears this story is absolutely true.
The thing I find bizarre is not that the man walked off wearing the wrong dentures but that, when he arrived, there were nine unclaimed sets of false teeth which had been left in the cinema.
Although I should not be surprised. The London Transport Lost Property Office has, in the past, had three dead bats, a vasectomy kit, a jar of bull’s sperm, a theatrical coffin, a park bench and a 14 foot long boat.
I do not know if or how they verified it was bull’s sperm.